New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - David Wigg

How Sir Cliff is ris­ing back up

For a young man who started out emu­lat­ing Elvis Pres­ley in front of his bed­room mir­ror, his hair combed into a copy­cat quiff, Sir Cliff Richard has had an as­ton­ish­ing ca­reer.

In the 60 years since he be­gan singing with The Drifters (now The Shad­ows) he’s had 14 UK num­ber-one hits, 67 top 10s, com­posed 100 songs and sold more than 250 mil­lion records world­wide. He’s also the only singer to have had a num­ber-one sin­gle in the UK over five con­sec­u­tive decades – ’50s to ’90s.

Now 78, the man who says he’ll never re­tire has just com­pleted a sold-out UK tour. Late last year, he re­leased a new al­bum of orig­i­nal songs – a con­tem­po­rary col­lec­tion of pow­er­ful, up­beat and heart­felt tunes that also saw him re­u­nited with his long­time friend Olivia New­ton-John.

The pas­sion in the al­bum has given him even more mo­ti­va­tion to per­form af­ter en­dur­ing “the most hor­ri­ble, dis­as­trous thing that’s ever taken place in my life”. He’s re­fer­ring to the now no­to­ri­ous raid on his home in Berk­shire by South York­shire po­lice prob­ing a false claim of his­toric child sex­ual as­sault

from the 1980s, and the BBC’s cov­er­age of the raid.

The claim was to­tally false and the case was dropped in 2016 – but not be­fore Cliff’s name had been dragged through the mud world­wide. The singer was awarded $353,000 for da­m­ages, plus an ex­tra $37,000 be­cause the BBC en­tered its cov­er­age of the event for a “scoop of the year” award. The cor­po­ra­tion was fiercely ad­mon­ished, with High Court judge Mr Jus­tice Mann ac­cus­ing it of “breath­less sen­sa­tion­al­ism”, blinded, he said, by an ob­ses­sion to beat the com­pe­ti­tion.

For the artist born plain

Harry Webb in Luc­know, In­dia, who ar­rived in Eng­land with his Bri­tish par­ents at age seven, the new al­bum, RiseUp, rep­re­sents a highly emo­tional tri­umph over ad­ver­sity.

When he sits down in his suite at London’s Dorch­ester Ho­tel to talk ex­clu­sively about the highs and lows of his re­mark­able 60-year ca­reer and the BBC scan­dal, he doesn’t hold back…

Let’s start at the be­gin­ning. Did you al­ways believe you could sing?

When my aunts and un­cles came round with my cousins, my mum and dad said, “Come on, Harry, show them what you can do, sing for them.” I couldn’t do it. I was too shy. But I re­mem­ber try­ing to look like Elvis with a friend, both of us adopt­ing the big quiff (and we al­ways got two help­ings of pud­ding in the school line. Girls were serv­ing the meals and they ob­vi­ously found that ap­peal­ing as we stood out from the other boys). At home, I used to stand in front of the mir­ror mim­ing to Elvis records. Thou­sands of kids wanted to be like Elvis and just a few of us got lucky.

Didn’t your fa­ther buy you your first gui­tar?

He did. And it was stolen on the last night of my first tour ending in Bris­tol, be­fore it was paid for. Mind you, it was only 27 quid in 1958. I dis­cov­ered it would be worth around £632 [$1178] now. He bought it on the never-never. My par­ents strug­gled fi­nan­cially when they moved to the UK from In­dia. We lived in a house in Cheshunt, Hert­ford­shire, and I shared a room with two of my three sis­ters. For a while, three of our main meals a week were hot tea and toast with sugar sprin­kled over it. As tough as it was, my sis­ters and I had no mem­ory of be­ing un­happy.

How im­por­tant was money to you in those early days?

Money didn’t come into the equa­tion un­til much later.

What was im­por­tant was my par­ents brought me up to re­spect things and it kept my feet on the ground. I sim­ply wanted to sing and play rock

‘n’ roll. For years I never knew what I was earn­ing. I was sur­rounded by peo­ple I trusted im­plic­itly and they took care of ev­ery­thing fi­nan­cial. I was proud to be able to buy my mum and dad their first house.

Rise Up seems to be a clear mes­sage that you’ve put the trau­matic events of the past few years be­hind you…

An­drew Lloyd Web­ber had said to me, “You’ve got to try to get a song where you can let off steam and say, ‘This is what hap­pened.’” I re­ceived a demo of Rise Up from the song­writ­ers Terry Brit­ten and Gra­ham Lyle and I loved that it had such a per­sonal mean­ing in its lyrics. They let you know that I’ve been through the worst times, the clouds were re­ally dark, but that I was never bro­ken down. It was fan­tas­tic and it gave me some­thing I could emo­tion­ally put my teeth into.

The strain of the past four years has gone from your face. How do you feel now?

I wouldn’t want it to hap­pen to my worst en­emy. In Ger­many, they pretty well fol­low King John’s Magna Carta, which says, ev­ery­body is in­no­cent un­til proven guilty in a court of law. They don’t name any­body un­til they’re found guilty. Now, I can’t see why we shouldn’t do that here. And that’s what we’re try­ing to do, as a group – Paul Gam­bac­cini, Lady Brit­tan [wife of the late Leon Brit­tan, who was falsely ac­cused of his­toric sex­ual of­fences] and a num­ber of other peo­ple who feel that we can at least ask for anonymity un­til, or un­less, you’re charged.

Usu­ally, if a charge hap­pens, it’s months, if not years, be­fore it goes to court. So there is still plenty of time for peo­ple to come for­ward. And the only time I will believe peo­ple who come for­ward is if they don’t ask for com­pen­sa­tion. We live in a com­pen­sa­tion na­tion. The world is a com­pen­sa­tion na­tion. We have lost trust be­cause how do we know when some­one’s telling the truth? So there’s a fight ahead and I’m happy to be part of that army. Laws are changed by gov­ern­ments, so if we get a chance to go to Par­lia­ment

and talk about it, we will. I’ve al­ready been with Paul and Lady Brit­tan to the House of Lords. Un­for­tu­nately, there was a big meet­ing on that day, so they only had about 10 lords that were able to come, but they were im­pressed by what we said. The ques­tion is, was it right to name me and put me through four years of tur­moil, when all the while I was in­no­cent? The an­swer must be no! All we are ask­ing for is anonymity un­til the po­lice have had a chance to in­ves­ti­gate.

At the time the BBC ran that news item, they hadn’t started the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Only the ac­cu­sa­tion had come through. It can take up to two years to in­ves­ti­gate. Some­times longer. And un­til they have enough to feel they can pros­e­cute, they don’t charge you. I think we should go back to the rul­ing of Magna Carta. Who in hell changed it any­way?

You duet on a new song with Olivia New­ton-John. Will you per­form it live to­gether?

I don’t know. We’re think­ing of at­tach­ing our record­ing

Ev­ery­body’s Some­one to a char­ity that works to stop bul­ly­ing in schools.

So you feel very strongly about bul­ly­ing?

I wasn’t bul­lied, but I saw it hap­pen. Most young kids could have their lives changed by be­ing beaten up in school. Now we have trolls on the in­ter­net who are just big bul­lies. Ugly, un­e­d­u­cated bul­lies. I guess that par­ent­ing has a vi­tal part to play. We are prob­a­bly the last gen­er­a­tion who are lucky enough to have had par­ents who lived through the war. So there­fore, their in­stincts for sur­vival, for be­ing right, for be­ing good, for be­ing just, would have fil­tered down into us. It is a much tougher world now and I as­sume par­ent­ing is equally tougher.

So you think parental con­trol to­day isn’t strong enough?

Yes, be­cause fam­i­lies have ter­ri­ble prob­lems to deal with. You have sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies. How a woman or a man can deal with that si­t­u­a­tion, I don’t know. No-one means to dam­age their chil­dren, but if you can’t get the right help, that’s what some­times hap­pens.

Your fa­ther was pretty strict in a Vic­to­rian way?

Yes, he was a dis­ci­plinar­ian.

Were you ever in trou­ble with him?

Oh yeah. I of­ten got a clip around the ear­hole.

You’ve al­ways looked younger than your years. Have you had any­thing done?

I’ve had a few lit­tle in­jec­tions, but they don’t last. I’ve tried Bo­tox, but that didn’t help me. My eye­brows seemed to drop. I don’t think I need to go un­der the scalpel. But they can do things now, just by in­ject­ing col­la­gen and stuff like that, just

to give you back what you lost. When I’m 100, if I need it done, I’ll have it done! I know I can’t look 18 any­more, so I do what I can. I keep my skin sup­ple with mois­turiser and dis­guise any grey hair creep­ing through with a light brown tint. The make-up girls on Top of the Pops used to rec­om­mend things to me and I’d go and buy a gal­lon of the stuff. It’s hard work stay­ing in shape.

How do you man­age to keep fit and healthy these days?

Ten­nis. Even on tour. When I’m in Por­tu­gal I usu­ally play ten­nis on Mon­days, Wed­nes­days and Fri­days with a pro­fes­sional coach. And I try to force my­self into the gym as well. I have a fallen arch on my right foot, but I don’t even know it’s there be­cause I wear spe­cial soles in my shoes. I’m in good phys­i­cal health. I’ve prob­a­bly gone on ev­ery diet there is. I don’t starve my­self and I eat three meals a day, but it’s healthy food, so I can have as much as I like with­out putting weight on.

What about al­co­hol?

I was a non-drinker un­til I did

Sum­mer Hol­i­day [1963] be­cause Una Stubbs and all the oth­ers in the film would go down to a restau­rant on the wa­ter’s edge and we’d or­der our meal and I’d have my fruit juice and they were all hav­ing wine. And so one night I tasted it and I liked it. And slowly dur­ing the course of that film, I be­came a drinker of wine.

Do you get drunk?

Not very of­ten, but it has hap­pened. Once in Bar­ba­dos with rum punches. One’s okay, two’s al­right, then… you know, I wake up in the morn­ing and think, “How did I get home?”

Do you ever think about re­tir­ing from the spot­light?

No, re­tire­ment is not in my vo­cab­u­lary. If I stopped one day, noone would know. Then if I wanted to come back, I could. It wouldn’t be a “come­back”.

How do you feel when your birth­day comes around?

A cou­ple of years be­fore she died, Cilla [Black] was with me in Bar­ba­dos and she was dread­ing her 70th birth­day. I said to her, “You’re go­ing to wake up the morn­ing of your birth­day and noth­ing will have changed.” There’s a growth and a pro­gres­sion that comes with age­ing, noth­ing we can do about that. So one needs to keep fit and try to keep mov­ing. Friends have told me that their par­ents had re­tired and died within a few years. It’s be­cause they’d be­come couch po­ta­toes. That’s the dan­ger. There’s no need for it. Keep walking. Just keep your body mov­ing and get the joints func­tion­ing. If you can’t walk any­more, crawl.

Sir Rod Stewart said re­cently he had never cooked a meal in his life. Do you cook?

I have had a cook in the past, but I can cook if I was at home and ab­so­lutely on my own. For my guests, I get some­one to come in and cook. Lunch is easy; we have sim­ple sal­ads, though I never eat toma­toes or chips. And I usu­ally have a glass of wine for lunch, then I might have two or three at night.

I have a housekeeper full-time and I have two gardeners in Bar­ba­dos and some­one to look af­ter the gar­dens in Por­tu­gal, and, of course, a housekeeper.

Did you ever meet Elvis?

I had one chance. I was in Amer­ica pro­mot­ing Devil Woman when I re­marked to one of the jour­nal­ists, “No

Elvis, no Cliff Richard.” He said, “Would you like to meet him, as I’m a friend of his?” But I knew Elvis was not in a good state at that mo­ment, hav­ing put on a lot of weight. I just kept think­ing to my­self, when­ever he made a movie, he got off ev­ery­thing, slimmed down and looked like the old Elvis again. So I said,

I’d rather wait be­cause if I was go­ing to have a photo of us on my fridge door, I’d like Elvis to be as he was... my in­spi­ra­tion, the man that changed my life. Then, of course, Elvis died.

Now, I look back and it was one of the most stupid things I ever did.

If you want to meet some­one and get the chance to, go and meet them.

It doesn’t mat­ter whether they’re too fat or too thin. Just so you can say you met the per­son who meant so much to you. I re­gret say­ing no.

Did you ever imag­ine your ca­reer would have such longevity?

I could never have imag­ined that. In the very early days, the rock ‘n’ roll world was kind of writ­ten off as one-hit won­ders with head­lines say­ing, “Here to­day, gone to­mor­row.” Sud­denly

I’m do­ing my 60th an­niver­sary tour. I didn’t think I’d reach 60 as an age, let alone have a ca­reer that old.

The pop star (at home with his mother and sis­ters in 1964, right) has fond me­mories of his child­hood,even though money was tight.A former teen sen­sa­tion, Cliff wasstill top­ping the charts in the ‘90s.

With his coiffed hair and slick dress sense, a young Cliff chan­nelled his singing idol Elvis at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Cliff (sec­ond fromright) with The Drifters in 1959.

Friends for more than 40 years, Cliff and Olivia have re­u­nited for a duet on his new al­bum.

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